What is a Forensic Technician?

A forensic technician, also known as a criminalist, is a trained professional who collects and analyzes physical evidence relating to criminal activity. Forensic technicians work in both the lab and the field, and are primarily employed government agencies. However, they can also work for private companies such as labs that specialize in evaluating evidence for small police departments and agencies that cannot afford to hire their own forensic technicians. Job opportunities in this field are generally excellent, particularly in urban areas.

A person can become a forensic technician completing a two-year training program or earning an associate’s degree in a field related to forensics and then pursuing additional forensics training. Most people begin their careers working under the supervision of experienced scientists and technicians, gradually honing their skills until they are able to work on their own.

The application of science and math to legal situations is referred to as forensic science. As a result, a forensic technician is much more than a competent scientist. He or she is also familiar with the protocols for handling evidence to ensure that it is not tampered with and can be used in court, and forensic technicians can write final reports and testify as expert witnesses, using their scientific skills to assist a prosecutor in making a case, or testifying on behalf of the defense on occasion.

Forensic technicians work under a variety of conditions and hours. Some work primarily in laboratories, but they may be required to be available at all hours of the day and night to evaluate new evidence as it is received, which may necessitate working a night shift. Others work primarily in the field, assisting with criminal investigations at all hours of the day and night, while others split their time between the field and the lab. Depending on their areas of specialty and interest, forensic technicians deal with things like physical and trace evidence, ballistics, DNA analysis, and autopsies.

The collection of evidence is the first step in a forensic technician’s job. He or she goes to the crime scene, documents the situation with a camera or with the help of a photographer, and carefully collects and marks the evidence before bringing it to the lab, logging it in, and analyzing it or passing it on to another forensic technician or lab for analysis. Following the analysis, the technician who performed it writes it up, highlighting key information that could aid investigators, and the evidence is stored, while the report is filed in the crime file. The technicians who collect and analyze the evidence may be called to testify in a court of law about the evidence.